If you love track and field, then you loved Saturday. The final day of the NCAA Championships, followed by the Adidas Classic in New York. TONS of tremendous competition – and that was really the key as the wind hampered the NCAA meet.
Let’s start there, since it was first on the schedule. After sizzling semifinal rounds, the wind turned on the athletes and seriously slowed down results. Maybe that was a good thing, because it brought focus back to the competition itself as the athletes went toe to toe time and time again – and we the fans were treated to several photo finishes and another men’s championship that came down to the meet ending 4×4!
My favorite highlights from the NCAA finals:
Men’s 100 – The wind held the times back, but when hurdler Andrew Riley (Illinois) does a Harrison Dillard impersonation and wins the 100 you have to be impressed. When he does it with the first three men having the exact same time to the hundredth (10.28, -2.3mps), and the first five separated by .02, you have historical and hot.
Men’s 110H – Riley follows up his 100 victory by winning his specialty (13.53, -3.5mps) – in the process becoming the first 100/110H winner in meet history.
Women’s 100 – If I didn’t know any better I’d swear I was watching Gail Devers v Gwen Torrence, as English Gardener (Oregon) was out like a bullet with Kimberlyn Duncan (LSU) in hot pursuit. Gardner did a very good Devers impersonation as she held Duncan off to win the title.
Men’s 400 – The semis were hot – the finals hotter. The hottest of them all was Tony McQuay (Florida) who came off the turn in third place, set sail down the stretch and came home in 44.58, ahead of Mike Berry (Oregon) 44.75 and Gil Roberts (Texas Tech) 44.99! This trio should be among the contenders for tickets to London in Eugene in two weeks in what should be one competitive 400 meters.
Men’s 4×4 – McQuay came back to lead the Florida 4×4 to a 3:00.02 victory with his sizzling 44.01 anchor – taking the baton slightly behind USC anchor Bryshon Nellum and biding his time until about 150 to go, then hitting the gas once again! Florida’s mark was #5 all time collegiately, and take note, there’s not a single senior on this squad of two freshmen and two juniors!
Men & Women’s 1500 – The times were championship like (that means slow) but the finishes of both were sprint exciting! And they don’t get any more sprint like than the men’s race where Andrew Bayer (Indiana) beat Miles Batty (BYU) by .01 with both men leaning and going to the ground at the line! And the stretch run in the women’s race saw Jordan Hasay (Oregon, 4:14.03) just run out of room against Emily Infield (Georgetown, 4:14.02) and champion Katie Flood (Washington, 4:13.79) in a stretch run that I didn’t know the diminutive runner had in her.
Women’s 400 – I watched the Big 10 Championships and was impressed with Ashley Spencer (Illinois). Enough so that I made the freshman my favorite to win this title. She didn’t disappoint, as she powered her way down the stretch to a 50.95 victory. Mark my words, she going to be in the hunt in Eugene!
Frankly, nearly every event had some sort of highlight – because nearly every event saw a battle at some point in the competition – that’s how good this meet turned out to be. And suddenly there are a host of young men and women that could be on contention for Olympic berths – and I’ll be talking about them over the next couple of weeks.
Before I move on to New York, let me give a shout out to coach Mike Holloway and the Florida Gator program. The Gators’ 50 to 48 win over LSU gave Florida it’s first ever outdoor title and made Holloway the first African American coach to win the Division I title – a nice little coaching mile stone! So congrats to coach Holloway and the Gator program for taking their place in history.
Now, on to New York, where the word for the day was "statement" as several statements were made in this meet!
Tyson Gay (US) is back! He opened up with a 10.00 INTO a -1.5mps headwind – putting him immediately into the mix at the Trials in two weeks. He is clearly around 9.85/9.90 shape, the only question being how he and his "soreness" will handle rounds. But we now know that Tyson is still fast and has time to get better.
David Rudisha (KEN) may be the most dominant athlete in the sport. Yes I know all about Usain Bolt (JAM) and Sally Pearson (AUS). But in running the fastest 800 ever on US soil (1:41.74); literally running his toughest competition (Abubaker Kaki, SUD) off the track; and finishing nearly three seconds ahead of the field; Rudisha did more than simply chalk up another win – he took things to another level! By comparison Bolt would need to run 9.64 with second place finishing in 9.90 and have Gay, Powell or Blake pull up or just stop running in disgust mid race! Rudisha is the strongest male favorite entering Daegu in my book – and a strong bet to go (dare I say) under 1:41! By the way, this was his 5th sub 1:42 – the equivalent of a sprinter with 5 sub 9.7′s!
Bernard Lagat is still America’s best miler. Dropping down to the 1500, he’s now a 5000 man, he followed a slow 1:57 pace then settled in before kicking home in 3:34.63. David Torrence was next American in 3rd at 3:35.48 and is starting to look like he may book a ticket to London. And it’s time to stick a fork in Alan Webb – he’s done.
Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM) is starting to find her form. Her bullet shot 10.92 SB win looking like her Beijing victory as she was never headed. Behind her, Tianna Madison and Allyson Felix are looking strong for London tickets – for the record I can’t see Felix doubling inn the 400 without running a single open 4 this season. And suddenly Carmelita doesn’t seem quite right.
Luguelin Santos (DOM) is the real deal and a major player in the 400. He’s as relaxed as they come in the stretch, and could be a medal threat. In contrast Jeremy Wariner (US) may be in a fight for a spot in Eugene – especially with a trio of college kids stepping up their games.
Keston Bledman is moving into contention in the 100. On the heels of his recent 9.89 PR he came to New York and ran Yohan Blake to the the add his 9.93 was just off Blake’s 9.90.
Sanya Richards is in rare form. It happened after the TV segment but Sanya scorched a WL 22.09 PR to win the deuce. Of she managed her race pattern she’s got to be the London favorite. And now I’m wondering if she’ll try the 2/4 double.
Finally New York once again showed the ridiculousness of the false start rule. Last year we had three sprinters out in a single race in New York. This year, out was Aries Merritt in the 110 hurdles. Out was Tyreek Hill in the HS 100 – the second major high school 100 this season to lose a star from a shutdown! And out was Curtis Mitchell in the deuce! Three star athletes lost in three different events in one meet – and nothing was gained, but great matchups were lost. Not the way to build a sport.
So there’s my interpretation of the big weekend of track and field. Results of the meets can be found here (NCAA) and here (NY). Now we head to Trials with LOTS to talk about!